The Lombard dialects belong to the Gallo-Italic dialects. Outside of Lombardy, they are also spoken in Switzerland in Canton Ticino and in the Italian-speaking parts of the Canton of Graubünden, in the Piedmontese province of Novara between the Sesia and Ticino rivers, and in the western part of Trentino.

The main groups in which the Lombard dialects can be split are those of Western Lombard (spoken in the provinces of Milan, Novara, Varese, Como, Sondrio and Canton Ticino), Eastern Lombard (spoken in the provinces of Bergamo and Brescia), the peripheral areas (in the provinces of Pavia, Cremona, and Mantua), and Alpine Lombard (in Valtellina).

Among the main shared features are: the vowel ü as the outcome of the long Latin u (lüna ‘moon’); the dropping of final vowels other than a (vus ‘voice’); the weakening of intervocalic voiceless consonants (roda < rota ‘wheel’, cf. Italian ruota; nuá < *notare, cf. Italian nuotare); the dropping of the final nasal and the nasalization of the vowel preceding it (‘bread’); the loss of geminated consonants (stupa ‘tow’, cf. Italian stoppa), the palatalization of the Latin cluster ct (lac ‘milk’); the drop of the final r consonant in the infinitival verb form (cantà ‘to sing’); the indicative present in the first person in –i (mi dizi ‘I say’); the use of subject clitics (ti te cãtet ‘you sing’).

Krefeld, Thomas | Lücke, Stephan (Hrsgg.) (2014–):VerbaAlpina. Der alpine Kulturraum im Spiegel seiner Mehrsprachigkeit, München, online, https://dx.doi.org/10.5282/verba-alpina. Version 22/2. Accessed on 12-01-2023.

There is also a large amount of lexical variation, for example see the map from the VerbaAlpina project for the concept ‘child’ (Italian bambino). In some places, the word is a variation on the word bambino, for example in the places marked with B/C (e.g., bambì in Clusone and Alzano Lombardo).

In the places marked with A/G , it is a variation on chétif derived from the Latin word captivus ‘captive’, for example s-cèt (Clusone), scetì (Vertova, Palazzago), s-cetí (Alzano Lombardo), scècc (Ponteranica), s’cetì (Cenate Sopra), or ʃtʃ’ɛt (Monasterolo Del Castello).

Other forms include bocia (Vertova, D), tús (Clusone, U), and fjʏl’ɪ: (from fils/figlio ‘son’: Sant’Omobono Imagna, L).

See the VerbaAlpina website to further explore this map as well as many other lexical concepts across the different languages spoken in the Alps.

Texts written in Lombard are attested as far back as the 13th century, for example the Sermon Divin by Pietro da Barsegapè. In the following centuries and up to the present, many Lombard writers have used dialect, especially in plays and poetry. Among the best known of these writers are Teofilo Folengo, Carlo Maria Maggi, and Carlo Porta.

In the last decade, the use of dialect in Lombardy has declined sharply: 2015 ISTAT data show that only 5.6 percent of people in households use dialect predominantly, and 26.1 percent use dialect along with Italian. Even lower percentages are found for the use of dialect with friends and strangers.


Further reading

  • Guerini, Federica (2023): Dialetti d’Italia: Lombardia e Ticino. Rome: Carocci.
  • Lurati, Ottavio (1988): Areallinguistik III. Lombardei und Tessin. Aree linguistiche III. Lombardia e Ticino. In G. Holtus, M. Metzeltin & C.  Schmitt C. (eds.): Lexikon der Romanistischen Linguistik. Band IV. Italienisch, Korsisch, Sardisch. Italiano, corso, sardo. Tübingen: Niemeyer, pp. 485-516.

Additional online resources